JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Aug. 10 (UPI) — The National Transportation Safety Board has recovered the voyage data and audio recorder of the the cargo ship El Faro, which sank near the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin last fall.
It was successfully retrieved from the ocean floor in the Bahamas late Monday evening, the NTSB announced Tuesday,
All 33 crew members died when the 790-foot ship sank Oct. 1 traveling from Jacksonville, Fla., to San Juan, Puerto Rico, during the Category 4 hurricane. El Faro was owned by Sea Star Line, LLC and operated by TOTE Maritime Services.
The basketball-size recorder contains up to 14 hours of audio from the navigation bridge and information about the El Faro’s speed and heading.
“The recovery of the recorder has the potential to give our investigators greater insight into the incredible challenges that the El Faro crew faced,” NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart said in a release. “But it’s just one component of a very complex investigation. There is still a great deal of work to be done in order to understand how the many factors converged that led to the sinking and tragic loss of 33 lives.”
In April, the recorder was found with wreckage at a depth of about 15,000 feet. But it proved difficult to recover.
The Navy’s Apache arrived at the location Monday morning. Technicians remotely maneuvered CURV-21, a deep ocean underwater vehicle, to the sea floor. Specialized tools were used to extricate the capsule from the mast structure to which it was attached.
The recorder was brought aboard the Navy’s Apache and the ship is headed to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia.
Then the recorder will be sent to the NTSB’s lab in Washington, D.C, the NTSB said. It’s not known how long it will take to review the data and audio.
The NTSB and Coast Guard are working together on separate investigations.